‘We are also human beings’: why there are no normal roads in Tatarstan outback

Neither an ambulance nor a school bus can reach the villages of the republic

Along with the snow in many areas of Tatarstan, the remnants of local roads have also “melted”. This year, 1,338 billion rubles have been allocated for their repair, of which 16,3 million will go literally to patch holes in the road surface. It worries many villagers why, in the presence of proven technologies that allow building rural roads quickly and without high costs, the republic prefers to spend more and build less in the traditional way. Read more about the difficult road situation, the price of good roads and unclaimed inexpensive technologies for their construction in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

“People have to walk drowning knee-deep in mud”

Over the past six months, more than 3,3 thousand messages about the poor condition of the roadway have been registered in the People's Control section on the website of the State Services of the Republic of Tatarstan, of which more than half are from the periphery. Tatarstan residents write about the same in social networks, illustrating complaints with photos, as they say, “not roads, but directions”.

“The Baltasinsky district, the road between the villages of Pizhmar and Atnya, there is 6 km from hell," Albert Zakiev posted a photo on the social network with this comment.

A similar picture was posted by a resident of the village of Starye Kutushi in the Cheremshansky district with a question: “When will there be a road? This is the entrance to the village.”

“We, the residents of the village of Nurtyak, Atninsky district, want to share with you our misfortune," wrote Reseda Khayrullina. “It's just a cry of despair. The thing is that there is absolutely no road in our settlement... several kilometres, our so-called road stretches along the fields. This is just a place rolled up by our own cars on red clay, which in the rains becomes a slush, a swamp.

There is no shop in the village, so in the autumn-spring period, and in the summer rains, its population cannot even go for bread, complains a local resident: “An ambulance cannot come to us during this period. Children get to schools with great difficulty. Paris-Dakar is nothing compared to the obstacles that we overcome every day. And it's not far from the capital of Tatarstan, in the 21st century. Yesterday, a resident of our village was brought on a tractor to see her off on her last journey.”

The residents of Nurtyak ask the authorities for a little — not to pave asphalt, but at least to pour gravel on the road to the exit point on asphalt: “Give us the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits that we are entitled to under the Constitution of our country. This is the right to work, to study, to medical care. After all, we are human beings, too.”

“Please take action. It is impossible to enter and leave the village. There is no way to take children to kindergarten and school, an ambulance can't stop by," wrote Zimfira M. from the village of Ulakly Chishma.

“The roadbed has not been changed since the asphalt was laid, for more than 35 years," Olga D. from the village of Starye Chelny of the Nurlatsky district indicated in the application. “How does an ambulance drive through the pits? A school bus also goes on this road. Patching is not done. Cars are breaking down! Roads have to be bypassed by the roadsides.”

“Due to lack of funding”

“The access road to the village of Nurtyak (dirt road) Kaensar-Nurtyak is regional and is on the balance of Glavtatdortrans State Institution," the executive committee of the Atninsky municipal district answered this cry of despair. “The Atninsky Municipal District has repeatedly sent appeals to the owner of the highway and the Ministry of Transport and Road Management of the Republic of Tatarstan with a request to include this highway in the highway construction programme... The work in this direction continues.”

“The maintenance and repair of roads in the village of Ulakly Chishma is carried out in stages at the expense of the budget of the Vasilyevsky rural settlement or with the formation of additional sources of financing," the executive committee of the Almetyevsk municipal district fought off the claims. “In 2023, the rubbling of the road is not possible due to the lack of funding.” In their “motivated refusal”, officials suggested that residents “raise this issue at the next gathering of citizens on the introduction of self-taxation of citizens of Vasilyevsky rural settlement” — that is, in fact, to invest their hard-earned money in the construction of the road.

Another “motivated refusal” was received by the applicant from the village of Zarechny in the Nurlatsky district. It turned out to be very concise: “The Executive Committee of the Nurlat Municipal District informs that this section of the road belongs to the Glavtatdortrans State Enterprise.

“There is no way to enter or leave the street, wrote Valentina A. from the village of Akkireevo, Cheremshansky district. “There are many young families with children who need to be taken to kindergartens and schools. Also, a paramedic lives on this street, who has constant calls.” “The repair of the road and street network in the village of Akkireevo on Sovetskaya street in the Ivashkinsky rural settlement of the Cheremshansky municipal district will be considered when forming the road works programme for 2024-2025," the executive committee promised in response.

Three new roads in 5 years

“There are several villages like Nurtyak in our district," Farit Nuriyev, the deputy head of the Atninsky district, told Realnoe Vremya. “And there is no money in the budget to make these roads.

He confirmed that people (including children) in the spring and autumn thaw have to go through mud on foot on a 5-kilometre dirt road — to asphalt, because no vehicle can drive on it at such a time. But he added that this doesn't happen for long — usually two weeks, if spring or autumn is not long. A plus this year is the fact that the thaw fell on spring break.

“To build these five kilometres of roads, more than one hundred million rubles are needed, I'm afraid to even think," he sighed, and then added that it's bad without roads in the outback and it's not good with roads.

They say, as soon as roads are built, young people will all aim to the city, there is no one to work in the village.

“What roads have been built in the district in the last 5 years?" we specified.

“A gravel road was built in Stariy Uzyum, in the villages of Yulba, Verkhnyaya Sarda… We are gradually doing it, giving priority to villages where there is more population.

“There are no other options”

Of the budget funds allocated for road repairs in 2023, 157,7 million will go to Kazan and Naberezhnye Chelny, another 166,2 million — for the reconstruction and repair of bridges. Almost 37,9 million more — for the construction of the second stage of the pilot zone to ensure the possibility of conducting experiments and testing technologies of intelligent transport systems that ensure the movement of highly automated vehicles on public roads on the Yelabuga-Gari-Abalach highway section in the Yelabuga municipal district. The remaining billion will be spent on major repairs of 22,9 km of road surfaces and on patching the largest holes on other roads.

Today, there is no other way but to find funds in the budget for road repairs, says Marat Khakimov, the director and founder of PSK AMIK PLC in Kazan, which produces asphalt concrete and specialises in road construction.

“There are no other options — you need to find money for asphalt.

“Are there any ways to save money? For example, to build narrower roads, to use cheaper technologies?" Realnoe Vremya clarified.

“No, because these roads are already the most economical — the third or fourth category, three metres wide, made of the cheapest materials. Everything in them is laid down to a minimum.

“Is it not a little — three metres, does it affect safety?"

“No. In order for the cars to drive, there are “pockets” within sight — after 1,5 kilometres.

Funding is shrinking more and more

The director general of the non-profit partnership “Alliance of builders and suppliers of the road complex” (ASDOR), Yury Agafonov, told Realnoe Vremya that recently ASDOR has conducted monitoring on the maintenance of regional and local roads:

“Regional roads are now funded by 13-60% of the standard. Where the content standards have been updated — no more than 40%. In municipalities, according to our data, 8-10% of the necessary is allocated. This money is not enough to repair roads and timely close up all the holes, which then destroy the road completely.

Another sad circumstance, according to him, is that under the terms of the rural roads repair programme, for several years in a row, instead of entrances and central streets, entrances to livestock farms were repaired. This was done under the slogan of the development of agriculture, so that it would be more convenient to export milk.

Made in USSR: it works in the USA, but not in Tatarstan

The municipal authorities have one standard answer to all requests to solve the problem with roads: there is not enough money in the budget to solve the problem quickly and everywhere. But today there are technologies that give the opportunity to build rural roads with minimal costs.

“This is a method of soil stabilisation," says Yury Agafonov. “The technology is simple — machinery goes out on a country road, grinds the soil and crushed stone, a binder granule is added to this mixture, everything is mixed, compacted, and then everything is spilled with water. As a result, we get a strong concrete coating at low cost. Now, using this technology, the foundation of the future M 12 toll highway is being made. One of the advantages of this technology is that it does not require the transportation of crushed stone and sand.

According to the interlocutor of Realnoe Vremya, this technology is by no means new — it was developed for military needs by Soviet engineers in the 1930s. Since then, the fruits of their labour have been actively used in the West:

“It is used both in the United States and in other countries of the world, but for some reason we show distrust towards it. Perhaps, because in the USSR there was the SoyuzdorNII Institute, which investigated road materials, gave conclusions, recommendations for use and was responsible for the results of their application. It was easier for customers than it is now, when they have to use a new technology at their own risk. And they, in order not to take risks, prefer 'run-in' methods. If something happens, they will present layers of road pie to the prosecutor's office, and the questions are removed.”

Anna Nagorkina

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